No matter where you are in your career, it’s important to be able to be decisive and to drive things forward with confidence.

These characteristics are a sign of an effective leader, and the people around you will certainly appreciate your clarity and direction. Yet, these qualities are something I’ve often struggled with, probably because I’m a perfectionist and hate getting things wrong. Maybe you do too?

I learned a significant lesson last week that highlighted the importance of acting decisively and with confidence.

Don’t Mess Around with Trucks

Now, the way I learned this was actually not in the context of being a leader or giving career advice. I was driving in my car on the way to an appointment.

I was on a two-lane highway going into a curve in the passing lane and there was a huge truck right next to me.

As I went into this curve I remembered one of my husband’s driving mantras: don’t mess around with trucks. But I couldn’t remember how to execute on that.

Do I speed up and pass the truck even though the curve in the road makes it easy for the truck to swerve into my lane? Or do I slow down and let the truck pass me even though I’m in the “fast lane”?

I became uncertain. I was speeding up, slowing down, speeding up, slowing down and finally I decided to put on the brakes a little bit and wait for the truck to pass me. Bad move.

I saw in my rear-view mirror that the car behind me was getting awfully close. I realized that this was a time to be confident, to focus and to drive forward. I put my foot on the accelerator and literally drove forward. I easily passed the truck and traffic flowed smoothly. Crisis averted.

But this potential crisis was completely of my own making. If I had continued to hesitate and hang back, I might have caused an accident.

In so much of life, what really matters is to make a decision and confidently drive things forward. When you put your foot on the accelerator, literally or figuratively, you can go forward and move past that point of uncertainty.

Decisiveness at Work

I got the opportunity to put my learning into practice at the office that very same day. One of my team members had a question for me about an issue that they needed to resolve. And I didn't know the answer.

Normally, I might have said something like, “Oh I'm really not sure. Maybe we need to consult with X, Y, Z … Let's think about it.” This reply is the equivalent of that stop and go hesitation I had on the highway earlier.

Instead, I made the conscious decision to be confident and do the equivalent of driving forward. I said, “I think we need to understand the impact of this decision on the people involved in the next stage of the project. So let's talk about it on our team call tomorrow with those other members, so we can make a decision including their input.”

My team member said, “OK, great.” She felt confident that this item was moving forward.

I'm so glad I didn't default to my, “Ooh I don't know” but rather drove forward with confidence even when I didn't know the answer, which in turn gave me real confidence.

Drive Things Forward in Your Life

As my work example shows, your action doesn’t have to find the answer right away. It can be to take an action towards the answer, such as setting up communication with other people on your team.

When you drive things forward in your life and in your career as a leader, everyone around you will feel even better and you will feel better too.

After I made that decision and set up a next action for my team member, I felt great! I felt strong. I felt like I had helped my team member and been a good leader. I want you to experience this feeling for yourself as well.

So, the next time you’re faced with feeling uncertain, remember to be decisive and drive forward. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll be modeling strong leadership behavior for those around you as well.

What’s an example of a time when you faced uncertainty and took decisive action to drive the project forward?

Leave me a comment and let me know.